Originally created 08/28/99

Area bank celebrates its 10th anniversary



Metro Augusta's largest community bank, Georgia Bank & Trust Co., celebrates its 10th anniversary this weekend.

It started with 20 full-time employees and grew through a decade filled with industry deregulation and mega-mergers to become a $325 million company with seven branches across Richmond and Columbia counties.

The bank's goal is to reach the half-billion mark within five years, said R. Daniel Blanton, an officer of the bank since its inception who has spent the last two years as president and CEO.

"Every year we've done better than we anticipated," he said. "That's the problem with trying to keep to our (growth) plan, we always grow more than we think we will."

Today the company has $265 million in deposits, $225 million in loans, and more than 160 employees. Its 15 percent to 20 percent annual growth rate has propelled it into the top 20 list of largest Georgia-chartered banks.

Its 1998 financial performance helped it reach No. 159 on USBanker's list of the nation's top 200 community banks published in its July 1999 issue. The bank also made the Atlanta Business Journal's top 100 Georgia businesses list.

Georgia Bank Financial Corp., the bank's holding company, was organized in 1988 by a group of area investors and founding president Pat Blanchard, former president of Georgia State Bank which was acquired by Georgia Railroad Bank and later First Union.

Its first bank opened in Richmond County in August 1989. In 1992, Georgia Bank & Trust grew significantly by acquiring FCS Financial Corp. of Martinez, the parent company of First Columbia Bank.

The acquisition added $52 million in assets and gave the company a foothold in the growing Columbia County market.

Mr. Blanchard resigned his presidency in 1997 to form Georgia-Carolina Bancshares, a new holding company with competing banks in Augusta and Martinez.

Damon Cline covers business for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3486.